|Birkenhead, 1938, with Eddie|
“Biggest B.B.C. Hoax is Out: “Five million viewers watched TV Music Hall on Saturday Night ... And once again Britain’s TV audience was hoaxed into thinking it was watching a woman. But it was not. For Bobbie Kimber is a man – married eleven years with a daughter of four.”Bobbie pointed out that “I’ve always been careful to see that the B.B.C. never used any pronouns about me – just Bobbie Kimber, no ‘he’ or ‘she’.”
Hannen Swaffer (1879-1962), theatre critic who had written him up as a woman, snubbed him after that.
“Recent Press comments about the sex of Bobbie Kimber the ventriloquist have succeeded only in raising faint smiles among his professional colleagues, who have always been aware of Mr. Kimber’s masterly female impersonation.”Kimber remained in demand but was now working as a known female impersonator – and even took to removing a wig at the end of the act.
However by the 1960s gigs had dried up. For a while he ran a pub, but both he and Janet drank too much of the merchandise. Later he drove lorries, and then London Transport buses.
On the 2 February the Daily Mirror ran a positive article on Bobbie, “Geared Up for a Comeback”, written by Clifford Davis, the same journalist who had denounced Bobbie twenty years before. This time he wrote her up as a female impersonator.
A fellow performer commented:
“I worked in a Revue with Bobbie Kimber at The Devonshire Music Hall, Manchester in the early 70s. She had shoulder length natural greying hair and always dressed as a woman. This was after the News Article about her being Transgender that had regenerated interest in her as a performer. She was like a very nice, polite middle aged woman and in no way flamboyant or brash like the stereotype Drag Act. She did tell me that she was the only person to appear at the London Palladium both as a male and later as a Female. She was very professional, a terrific Vent' and a lovely person.”
- Bobbie Kimber. “Impersonation”. The Stage, 5 December 1946: 5.
- Clifford Davis. “Biggest B.B.C. Hoax is Out”. Daily Mirror, 15 December 1952: 1.
- “Bobbie Kimber’s Impersonation”. The Stage, 1 January 1953: 3.
- “Augustus Made Bobbie’s Name”. Portsmouth Evening News, 14 August 1953: 13.
- Roger Baker. Drag: a history of Female Impersonation on the Stage. A Triton Book. 1968: 189.
- Ellis Ashton. “Music Hall Miscellany”. The Stage, April 10 1969: 6.
- Clifford Davis. “Geared Up For a Comeback”. Daily Mirror, 2 Feb 1972.
- Bobbie Kimber. “He She: Five days a week I am a woman. At weekends my wife wants me as a man“. Sunday Mirror, 13 February 1972: 10-12.
- Bobbie Kimber “He buys his first dress as a woman; She has a close shave in a girl’s bedroom”. Sunday Mirror, 20 February 1972: 10-12.
- Bobbie Kimber “He gets his first marriage proposal as a SHE; tells of his life as a man – and a woman”. Sunday Mirror, 27 February 1972: 10-12.
- Jan Kimber. “Our Incredible marriage”. Sunday Mirror, 27 February 1972: 12.
- Sidney Vaunces. “Light Entertainment”. The Stage, 18 May 1972: 3.
- Kris Kirk & Ed Heath. Men in Frocks. GMP, 1984: 28
- Anthony Slide. Great pretenders: a history of female and male impersonation in the performing arts. Wallace-Homestead Book Co., 160 pp. 1986: 50.
- Patrick Newley. “Obituaries: Bobbie Kimber”. The Stage, April 29 1993: 41.
- Michael Kilgarriff. Grace, Beauty & Banjos: Reculiar Lives and Strange Times of Music Hall and Variety Artistes. Oberon Books, 1998: 146.
- Richard Anthony Baker. Old Time Variety: An Illustrated History. Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2011:
- Oliver Double. Britain Had Talent: A History of Variety Theatre. Red Globe Press, 2012: 187-8.
Kimber had a career bounce after being denounced in 1952. I assume that the writing of the Sunday Mirror articles in 1972 was an attempt to repeat that, and in fact did produce another career bounce. While she apparently lied about having surgery, she apparently did start living almost full-time as female, and as such should be regarded as transgender as well as a female impersonator earlier in life.
“He arrived at the theatre as a man and left as one. He didn't reveal himself at the end of his act either because it served him better to have people think he was a woman. There weren't many female vents in those days and the range of his voice made it exceptional for a woman. It gave him a professional edge. It was a gimmick - all part of the game.”This would well fit the period before 1952, but after that he was perceived by the public as a female impersonator. After her revival in the early 1970s it seems that Bobbie was mainly living as a woman – at least five days a week. Apparently she told some, as she had written for the Sunday Mirror, that she had had the operation, and others just assumed that she was a woman.
The Reader Comments to the original posting:
I might well have had written 'outed himself', but actually I did not. The details in Baker and slide are very brief. What a shame that Bobbie Kimber was removed from Baker's second edition.
This is how it all began: When he first started out as a ventriloquist in his late teens, in the late 1930's, he was working in a seaside town in a summer show. Because the back stage facilities were so bad the town council wouldn't allow any women performers in the show. The boss didn't like this and said that to get round it, one of the performers would have to dress as a woman. Dad was the youngest, and newest member of the company.....so....then one night something went wrong with the running order and Dad didn't have time to change out of his female costume back to male clothes - so - he just grabbed his dolls and went on stage. From there he realised he was on to something and, being the artist he was he put as much work and effort into learing to deceive with his looks as he had put into doing the same with his voice. Voila! Warm regards, Christine.
Bobbie dressed as a woman ALL the time and was thought of as a woman which is how she wanted it. She had spoken often to my husband and I about her operation to become a woman. Her real daughter spent many a time with myslf and my husband and other friends with Bobbie and her mother, with Bobbie dressed in women's clothes. If you ask anyone in the Stoke Newington area, where they lived, about Bobbie they will tell you the same, Bobby was NEVER seen in men's clothes.
Please contact me through my website where you will see part of my collection of photo's of my Dad - and me as a little girl with my family.I also have some unpublished snaps you might like to see if, like me, you are who you say you are. I post my comments as anonymous because I can never get the URL thing to work.